To succeed in business, start with the end in mind

For owners of small- and medium-enterprises, a business is their vehicle to freedom. Done right, it sets owners up with recurring revenue so they don’t have to work every hour under the Sun.

In fact, they get paid whether they work or not. A successful business is commercially robust (where there is control of the day-to-day operations rather than the chaos of running around trying not to impersonate a headless chicken), it is profitable (with regular and consistent cashflow) and it works through a great team and excellent systems – in other words, without the business owner!

There is a clear roadmap to get every business to that point and to give every business owner more time, control and enjoyment in their life – and to make more money.

The foundations of a successful business are built on mastery – mastery of where you are going (called destination mastery), of the business numbers (referred to as financial mastery) so owners can make informed decisions that are timely, not retrospective, of the owner’s and team’s time (surprisingly called time mastery), and delivery mastery (being consistent with how you deliver your product or service so customers have a great experience, every time.

To get somewhere, you need to know where you are going, or else anywhere is good enough. And remember, “good enough” isn’t! To set your business up for success, destination mastery is essential.

Steven Covey coined the phrase “Start with the end in mind”. It’s a gem, because if we don’t, we risk meandering along and being tripped up by the challenges of every day. Starting with a clear sense of where we want to go, our dream destination allows us to plan and set goals to get there.

Goals come in three types. For some business owners, there are negative, “away from” goals. “I don’t want to work 80 hours a week”. “I don’t want too few staff” or “I don’t want an overdraft” are all examples of negative goals. They are things we want to get away from and can be motivating in their own way.  The big challenge is that they stop motivating us to achieve things and don’t provide much momentum when the negative stops hurting quite so much. Either the person becomes used to the pain or it’s felt a little less.

Positive goals are ones we actively set and look to grow towards. So, instead of not wanting an overdraft or a mortgage, how about “I want to have $100,000 in the bank” or “I want my house debt-free”.  For businesses right now, setting a positive goal of growing the team to fulfill customer demand is a positive goal that can be achieved, and grows the business when done.

The third type of goal ties into uniting your business and keeping people aligned. A goal that is bigger than you, a legacy goal, needs more than what you can do alone. Others also need to feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. For my business, that goal (which is also my company vision) is to create thriving, prosperous communities through business growth. There is no way I can do that alone and I know that together we can do so much more!

Imagine the impact of a goal bigger than you. If your business sets out to be the best plumber of Wellington, who do you think will apply to come and work for you? The best plumbers and apprentices, or the worst?

The same goes for customers looking for the best and so your company direction is set from the get-go. You are now on the path to “be the best”, even if you might not be there yet.

To get everyone in your business working together needs a common goal, something that unites, enrolls and inspires. It isn’t just the business owner’s goal and it isn’t just to make more money (although clear financial goals are important).

I recently saw a silly but still amusing anecdote, where the “boss: is showing off her new high-end sports car. She tells an employee that if he works really hard and meets the goals she set, then next year . . . she will be able to buy a second new car!

Contrast that with the All Blacks or the Springboks, where the common goal unites everyone, from the back-room staff to the players and from there across the country. In 2019, when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup, they made no secret of the fact that their common goal was to give a sliver of hope to a country battling many social ills. Yes, the team got the glory, but the bigger goal united the players, coaches and support staff.

Clarity is power. Sticking with the rugby analogy, it isn’t enough that only the captain (read, business owner) knows what the goal is. How well do you think the team will play if the captain knows what to aim for, but the fullback, the wing, the lock, don’t know? They can’t be expected to perform without being clear on the why, what, when and how, and that takes us to an essential ingredient in the recipe for success: Communication of goals is practically as important as the goals themselves.

Your job as a business owner is to own the final decision. It’s your business and so you have that responsibility and privilege, but you don’t have to do it all yourself. Once you’ve decided your destination, the direction of where you want the business to go, you then must communicate that again and again. Not all people won’t get it the first time, so you need to keep speaking to them, keep reminding them and keep moving them in the right direction. And in that, SMART goals are one of your greatest tools.

Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievement-oriented, realistic and time-bound (“we will earn $3 million in 2022”). They are also hyper-granular, so when mastering destination start with daily goals. By getting daily things right in your business, then moving to the weekly and once you’ve mastered that the monthly, quarterly and annual, your business will fly.

For many of your staff this might be a new way of working, and it might be for you, too! So start small, think big and scale fast. Set daily goals yourself, initially, by asking “What do I need to achieve tomorrow?”

When you have a good handle of how the process of setting SMART daily goals works, extend it to your team leaders and then to the rest of the business.

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